Monday, May 05, 2008


Stanley Cup Playoffs 2008

And then there were Four….

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs wind down, more and more of you are bitterly disappointed because your favourite team has been eliminated. The Habs bowed out on the weekend, amidst a flurry of excuses.

The Flames went out quickly, as did the Sens and the Oilers. For some of you, that means that there are no Canadian teams remaining. That particular expression really irks me, as there are more Canadian players on most of the remaining teams than there are on some of the teams based in Canada.

The Sharks bit the dust Sunday evening. Excuse me, that was early Monday morning. A valiant effort, but after several hours of hockey, even I had one eye closed as they entered the fourth overtime period.

The Detroit Red Wings continue to roll along, thanks to a brilliant mix of experience and youth, offence and defence, and buckets full of heart. They are playing like they really want to win it all. Some of your favourite players who are now golfing did not play with the same intensity.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have shown us what can be done by young players who want it all. Their media guide has this year’s team expression on the cover: “Experience the Evolution”. Not exactly the most motivational moment in history. Perhaps they were preparing for years to come. For the loyal Penguin fans, the future is now: Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Talbot, Whitney, Jordan Staal, Orpik, Malone. All under 30 years old. All very hungry.

Probably the biggest surprise this year has been the play of Johan Franzen of the Red Wings. In the ten games that the Wings have played thus far, he has scored eleven goals. That is a Red Wing record. He has scored more goals in the playoffs this year than any other Wing in the history of the team. The record was jointly held by three players; sniper Petr Klima, Sergei Fedorov, and another pretty good goal scorer named Brett Hull.

Gordie Howe recently celebrated his 80th birthday. He had held that goal scoring record for many years, until Klima broke it in 1988. Gordie was at the Spring Expo 2008, the semi-annual Sports Card Show in Toronto last weekend signing autographs.

Gordie’s single autograph on a flat surface was fetching $ 99. If you wanted him to sign a Red Wings Sweater, you had to fork out $ 299. On the other hand, Gerry Cheevers, Peter Mahovlich, and Bob Probert signed anything for $ 25.

Johan Franzen’s accomplishments come as no surprise to die-hard Wings fans. For those of us outside Motown’s sphere of influence, he is not exactly a household name. He was drafted by the Wings in 2004, their third round pick, 97th overall. The Wings have a knack for choosing wonderful players after the first round who come into their own three or four years after their draft year-particularly European players.

Players on their top ten scoring list for this year’s playoffs include, with the round in which they were drafted: Pavel Datsyuk (6th round), Thomas Holmstrom (10th), Jiri Hudler (2nd), Nicklas Lidstrom (3rd), and Henrik Zetterberg (7Th).

Thrown into that mix are two former Belleville Bulls enjoying post season play. Both players starred with the Bulls and have made remarkable turnarounds in their careers this year. In spite of a serious facial injury suffered near the end of the season, Cleary has returned to work his magic in the offensive zone. McCarty continues to demonstrate the grit and determination that kept him in the NHL for so many years.

So it’s the Wings and the Stars, the Penguins and the Flyers. The best of the rest, at this point.

And in a week or so, a Stanley Cup final to keep you up late at night. Men playing the boys’ game-the greatest game.


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